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When we breathe, air is carried through the airway – the nose, mouth, throat and windpipe – into the air sacs in the lungs. Blood circulating from the body to the chest is pumped from the heart to the lungs, where it absorbs oxygen. The blood then returns to the heart which pumps it out to the body. Every cell in the body needs an adequate and constant supply of oxygen to survive. If a person’s airway is blocked, they are unable to breathe. If they stop breathing, their heart will continue to beat for several minutes, circulating existing stores of oxygen to the brain and the rest of the body.

Without oxygen, the heart will stop within minutes. Some accidents or medical conditions (such as drowning, suffocation, choking, drug overdose and poisoning) may cause:

• The Airway to be blocked (airway obstruction)

• The Breathing to stop (respiratory arrest)

• The Circulation of the blood by the heart to stop (cardiac arrest) Cardio refers to the heart, andpulmonary refers to the lungs.

The purpose of cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) is to keep oxygen circulating to the brain and other vital organs until medical help arrives, or until the heart and/or breathing restart. By doing CPR, you do for the patient what they cannot do for themselves:

• A: If their airway is not open, you open it.

• B: If they are not breathing, you breathe into them.

• C: If their heart has stopped beating, you compress the chest, forcing blood to flow via the heart and lungs to the brain.


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